Can Christians who die by suicide go to Heaven? Christian apologists answer

Unsplash/Nghia Le
Unsplash/Nghia Le

Two Christian apologists have offered their thoughts on whether Christians who die by suicide go to Heaven or Hell when they die. 

Former atheist Jonathan Noyes, now a Christian author and apologist, was joined by professor and apologist Sean McDowell for a live YouTube discussion Tuesday to address the question, "Is suicide seen as unforgivable in the Eyes of God?"

Both apologists agreed that the Bible suggests suicide doesn't lead to damnation for Christians, and both agreed that "the manner in which someone dies has no determination on their final [eternal] destination." 

The duo emphasized God's grace to a broken humanity, alluding to Ephesians 2:8: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." 

"If an atheist dies by suicide, they go to Hell — not because of their suicide, but because of their lack of trust in Jesus. The same is true for Christians," said Noyes, a speaker with the apologetics ministry speaker with Stand to Reason. "A Christian who dies by suicide goes to Heaven because they're Christian."

"The fundamental component of being a Christian is that you place your hope [and] your faith in Jesus. You 'confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that He has been raised from the dead.'"

In the same way God can forgive other sins, Noyes and McDowell contend that God can also forgive suicide for professing Christians.    

"I'm a Christian. I know who Jesus is. I have a fantastic relationship with God. And if I go outside the bounds of my marriage, if I cheat on my wife, am I still saved? Yes, because I am not saved by my works; That means I don't lose my salvation by my works. … Well, the same is true [for suicide]," Noyes pointed out. 

"Even if I die in the middle of having an affair, I'm still saved. Repentance is a gift that's given to us by God, not a work that we must do to be saved by God. … It's like faith. Faith is a gift; so is repentance."  

McDowell addressed a related point commonly used to argue that Christians who die by suicide don't go to Heaven because they didn't have a chance to repent after they died. 

"Clearly, it's a final act and there's no time to repent. Even if you say beforehand, 'hey, forgive me for what I'm about to do,' [the apology to God] is still happening [before the act is committed]. And you could still wonder if somebody understands the forgiveness they're asking for before they do it," McDowell said of the rationale behind the argument. 

But he rejected this idea, arguing that Christians who don't repent for every sin they did before they die will not be damned because they are already saved by "faith through grace."

McDowell added that it would be a "paralyzing way to live" if a "Christian's salvation was contingent upon their repentance." 

"I'm not living in this constant give-and-take with God; that if I tell a lie, I lose my salvation, until I ask for repentance, [or if I] have a lustful thought, I lose salvation, until I ask for repentance. … That doesn't reflect the reality of Jesus when He says: 'My burden is light.'" 

Noyes said that if God made repentance a requirement for every believer for them to gain entry into Heaven, he would not make the cut. 

"I am a wretch. … If you said: John, 'confess every sin right now.' I could confess a bunch, but I'm going to miss some. Because I do [sinful] things without even really knowing," said Noyes, saying, "the Christian's hope for future glory should lie in an unwavering relationship with the Redeemer God, the Son of heaven," and not in trying to earn their salvation.  

Noyes cautioned, however, that grace "is not an excuse to pursue suicide."

"Suicide is a grievous sin. … It's self-murder. It grieves God. It's never pleasing to God. And part of being a Christian is we never run towards our sin. We run away from it. We want to live more like Jesus, not less like Jesus," Noyes said. 

"[The Apostle Paul is] preaching about this amazing grace that we have through Christ; that 'nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.' Then, he goes on to say: 'nothing, neither heights and depths, angels, demons. … But just because we've been lavished in such an amazing grace doesn't mean that we can lean into sin, not ever."

Noyes and McDowell are not alone in their beliefs on suicide and salvation, as other prominent American Christians have echoed such views. 

Kay Warren, a bestselling author and co-founder of the popular Evangelical Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, who lost her son Matthew to suicide in 2013, previously told The Christian Post that the Church has historically been conflicted about suicide and even has shamed those who take their own lives and wouldn't allow them to be buried in church cemeteries. 

"And yet, when I look at Scripture, I just can't see any valid reason for that," she stated. 

"I see in John 10 where Jesus talks about His sheep and His sheep know His voice and He knows their voice and nothing can pluck His sheep out of His hand," she said. "To me, Jesus answers that resoundingly: 'When you are a believer in me, when your faith is in me as your Savior you can't even take yourself out of my hands.'"

Warren declared that God "promised us that Matthew's salvation was safe and secure."

"Matthew gave his life to Jesus when he was a little boy. And so, I'm absolutely 100% confident based on the work of Jesus that Matthew is in Heaven," She said. "And that's a certain hope."

Megachurch Pastor Greg Laurie of California's Harvest Christian Fellowship Church said while speaking at the 2019 funeral of one of his associate pastors, Jarrid Wilson, that is a common "misconception" for Christians to believe that their final sin can land them in Hell. 

"When you stand before God, you won't be judged by the last thing that you did before you died. You'll be judged by the last thing Jesus did before He died. He died for your sin," Laurie said at the time.

On the day he died by suicide, the 30-year-old Wilson tweeted that loving Jesus doesn't always cure depression. 

"Loving Jesus doesn't always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure anxiety," Wilson tweeted. "But that doesn't mean Jesus doesn't offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that."

Laurie said that while living, Wilson made the right choice to follow Jesus. 

"He trusted the promise of John 3:16: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.' Because of that, I believe Jarrid is in heaven right now," Laurie wrote.

Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish author and radio host, wrote in an op-ed at the time of Wilson's passing that Christians are not "saved or lost based on a specific sin we commit" or don't commit. 

"We are saved based on our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, who then becomes our Lord and calls us to live a new life," he wrote. 

"What if we reject His lordship once we are saved? What if we turn away from Him and deny Him? Can we then forfeit our salvation?  I believe the Scriptures teach that this is a distinct and real possibility. Let us not play games with such a great salvation! (I'm aware, of course, that there is great debate among Christians on this subject.) Is it possible, then, that someone committing suicide could do so as an act of defiance and rebellion against God, thereby rejecting His lordship?"

"This is possible too. But unless we have clear evidence that this is the case, when we hear of a believer committing suicide, especially one who suffered from severe depression, we should believe and hope for the best."

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